The New Table

5 years ago we cut down some trees for boards for fencing, to make a bed for a hay wagon, and so on. We just cut down “junk” trees, trees that for one reason or another would never make a log that we could sell to a timber buyer.

One of those trees was a maple standing in a swamp. When our sawyer, Dave Scheiber, cut into it the wood was spalted.

Spalted Maple

Spalting is when fungi colonize inside a tree and in this case created the “flames” in the wood. When I saw that I asked Dave to cut some 2″ thick slabs for me and leave the natural bark edge on. I thought that I’d try to make a table from it. (Click here for my original post about sawing these logs.)

More spalted maple

Dave’s sawmill wasn’t wide enough to cut a slab from side to side in one piece, and I didn’t have woodworking tools to handle that either. So we cut slabs that were natural on one edge and straight on the other. Putting straight edge to straight edge is like opening a book.

5 years went by. I had the slabs stacked in our garage. I walked around them, moved them several times, and stacked things on top of them. Finally this winter I decided if I was ever going to do anything with them, it was time.

Even cut in half the boards were too wide for my planer, plus they had split and warped. They were 18 inches wide more or less, and to get them flat across that width I would’ve had to plane a lot of the thickness off.

Split Ends

I ripped the slabs down into boards between 5 and 8 inches wide, depending on where the splits were. I ended up with 5 slabs, 2 with natural edges for the outside edges.

Now that I had my boards I needed to get the edges straight so I could glue them together. For the natural edge boards I didn’t have a straight edge to start with, so I made a jig using surface clamps to hold the board and ran it through my radial arm saw to get a relatively straight edge.

That worked pretty good.

5 Slabs

I ended up cutting another slab for the middle board from what’s pictured above. It’s a little hard to tell from this picture, but that middle board was twisted end to end, and while I could flatten it when I clamped them all together, it would leave a slight gap between its neighbors since its edges were no longer square to them.

While these boards were almost straight, my “relatively straight” ripped edges weren’t good enough to make a good strong glue joint. I got a 2″ edge trim bit for my router and used an 8 foot aluminum straightedge to get the edges straight enough to glue.

Edge Trimmer

That worked really slick. It was essentially like a jointer with a 12 foot bed and gave me boards that were flat on the edge from end to end.

Flat and True

It’s looking good! Up until now I’d been despairing and ready to turn the whole mess into kindling. I started gluing the boards together, one joint at a time.

Clamped Many Ways

I’ve got bar clamps pulling it together, c clamps on the edges holding them flat and caul blocks in the middles keep it flat there too. Repeat that for every joint and finally…

The Final Joint

Now that it’s glued together I trimmed the ends. The lower right edge in this picture is money side with that knob sticking out.

TheThe Money Shot

Then I sanded and sanded and sanded, starting with an 80 grit in the belt sander and finishing with 200 grit by hand. After that I applied 10 coats of wipe on polyurethane (sanding between each one) and it looks like this.

Almost Finished

Ready to put the legs on now.

I’ve Got Legs

At this point you may be wondering how I flipped that table top over to put the legs on it since it’s long, wide, and heavy. The answer of course is, “Debbie, sweetie pie, can you come down to the shop and help me?”

I ordered these legs from steeltablelegs.com. Who knew there were people out there who specialize in making, well, steel table legs? They were very helpful, I emailed them about how wide my table legs should be, how far I should set them in from the ends and so on. They replied to my every query quickly and helpfully.

Once specified and ordered, the legs were easy to put on (although note to self, the next time you do this and one of the legs starts to fall, don’t stick your leg out to catch it).

How Not to Catch a Table Leg

The legs are attached, the table’s done. But I still had to get the table up to the house. With the legs on it, it is one heavy beast.

Table Mover

This is my soon to be patented table transport tool (TTT). Debbie and I turned the table on its side to get through the front door, and just like that, this 5 year project was done.

I’ve never done anything I’ve been satisfied with, whether it’s a crop, a software module, a stained glass window, or a woodworking project.

But this is pretty good.

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Turtle Days 2019

I ran the Turtle Days 5K this weekend. When I was getting ready I went upstairs to sift through my collection of race t-shirts for something to wear for the race.

Shuffling through memories of long-forgotten races I found my t-shirt from Turtle Days, 2000. What could be more perfect to wear in 2019?

19 years, where’d they go?

I’ve written down every race I’ve ever run, my time, and often the weather conditions, how much I weighed, and how I felt. Looking back to that year 2000 race I’ve given up about 5 minutes over 5K in 19 years at Turtle Days. 16 seconds a year.

I toed the line, feeling good in 2019, hoping to better my time last year by a significant margin. And for a couple miles, it was going that way. I was ahead of last year’s pace. My niece Hillary was running too, at 2 miles I was on her heels and I was feeling damn proud at keeping up with a 27 year old.

But as mile 3 dragged on I faded and ended up running almost exactly the same pace as I did last year. I was disappointed, but as I look at the 19 year trend, I bucked the trend this year by 16 seconds.

And I won my age group.

I’ll take that.

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I’m Cold

I took my Mom today to have a minor medical procedure done, one where she needed a light anesthetic .

All went well and as she was coming back from the anesthetic they called me to come sit with her in the recovery room.

As she woke up she kept saying, “I’m cold. I’m cold.” [1] The wonderful nurses in the recovery room would bring her a warmed blanket each time she said that.

And it freaked me out. I’ve just finished re-reading Catch-22 [2] and one of Yossarian’s recurring memories throughout the book is the gunner Snowden saying, “I’m cold. I’m cold.” after he’s been wounded on a bombing run. [3] Only at the end of the book do you find out that Snowden is horribly wounded and dying.

Like Yossarian, at that moment I just wanted to run away.

1. It was cold in there. Felt nice on a muggy day.
2. If, like me, you haven’t read Catch-22 since high school, go to your local library, get a copy, and read it. What an amazing book.
3. Spoiler alert.

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Not Yet

I did the 15 mile run today that my marathon training plan called for.

The last two miles were a death march, I kept running but if a kind stranger had stopped and asked if I needed a ride I would have taken that offer in a second,

I got done and thought, “That’s it, I’m giving up, a marathon is not in my future.” I staggered up to the house and drank and ate everything in sight (including all the ibuprofen in the house).

Now, 7 hours later I’m feeling ok. Next week is a rest week, and then 17 miles the week after.

I’m not giving up yet.

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Modern Medicine

After a week of being trapped in the maw of modern medicine all I know is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The people working in the system are wonderful people and they’re doing their best. But the model, the paradigm, the whatever is so broken, they’re not helping.

I just don’t know.

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Feeling Good Again

I’ve set myself the goal of running the Fort4Fitness marathon on September 28th, 2019. I last (and first) ran a marathon in 1997, the year I turned 40. I’ll be 62 years old by September 28th.

I’ve been following Jeff Galloway’s program [1]. It’s based on running 3 days a week, long slow runs, and regular walking breaks alternating with running. I run 4 minutes and 30 seconds and walk 30 seconds in the particular program I’m doing.

And it’s working. I feel so good running. Before I started following this program I had tendinitis in my right hip. My lower back would tighten up during a run. Both of those made running, and everyday life, painful.

Today I ran 11 miles and while I was tired and achy by the end I didn’t hurt. Mile 11 felt better than mile 1 [2]. No hip pain, no back pain. An 11:35 pace is nothing to brag about, but I’m not bragging, I’m just feeling good again.

 

1. “The Official Run-Walk-Run Site.”  I don’t get the “Run-Walk-Run” title, the program is Run-Walk or Run-Walk-Run-Walk if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

2. That probably has more to do with that I did my run today after having Easter brunch at my favorite sister-in-law’s house. It took about 4 miles before I wasn’t feeling my stuffed gut.

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Wasted Again

Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted;
If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning
Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;
That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.

Evangeline – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My mom has vascular dementia, she often doesn’t know what day it is and can’t complete thoughts or sentences.

But her intellect remains formidable. We were talking the other day and she asked, apropos of nothing, “What do you know about Evangeline? Do you know why Longfellow wrote it?”

I had to admit the only reason I knew about Evangeline was because James Lee Burke frequently mentions her in his Dave Robicheaux crime fiction stories. [1]

After that conversation I stopped at the Peabody library in Columbia City [2] and checked out a Longfellow collection. I plowed through the dense, almost impenetrable to me, 19th century text and came across the gem that I quoted at the start of this post.

We’ve been talking a lot about fountains these days. Son Josh has done a jaw-dropping amount of genealogical research and relevant to this post our family name [3] can be rendered as “to the fountain.”

The words of a long dead poet, dredged up who knows why by the tangled synapses of my mom’s mind, through a good public library, to my son’s genealogical research.

These things flow by and through me. I’m a baffled conduit of wonder.

1. I didn’t admit that I thought Wordsworth wrote Evangeline. One of my great regrets in life was that I pursued a technical rather than a liberal arts education.

2. Public libraries are a treasure. I’m filled with hope every time after I visit one.

3. Zumbrun. Are you paying attention?

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Sounds Like Home

I’d planned to make broccoli beef tonight which we usually make with flank steak or something like that. But when I went to the freezer last night we were out of flank steak or sirloin or anything really appropriate.

So I grabbed a chuck roast [1] and slapped it in the refrigerator and decided I’d figure out how to make it work later[2].

Tonight rolled around, it’s 5pm and I’ve got a chunk of roast to get ready for supper. I considered slicing it paper thin and searing it and hoping for the best, but then I remembered my favorite cooking tool, the pressure cooker.

This isn’t one of the modern Instant Pots, this is an old school pressure cooker. You pour in some water, a chunk of meat, crank the heat and let it rattle away for 30 minutes or so and you make a tough old chuck roast meltingly tender.

More than anything else, it reminds me of home. My mom and my grandmothers used pressure cookers. To hear it rattling away on the stovetop and to smell the rich steam takes me home again when I was a little kid [3] and that sound and smell meant good things soon like beef and noodles.

Or good things like broccoli beef. We’re eating light these days, and beef and noodles served over mashed potatoes doesn’t exactly fit the bill.

So I sliced the chuck roast thin, trimming off all the fat and put it in the pressure cooker with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and water. Once it got up to steam I set the timer for 12 minutes and cut up a couple heads of broccoli, a green bell pepper, and some green onions.

Then after the beef came out of the pressure cooker I seared the beef in the wok, added the vegetables, then a sauce of soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, and scallions and et voila!

Broccoli Beef

Served on a bed of cauliflower rice, it’s delicious, light, and … tastes like home.

1. Yes, it bothers me to cook “Chuck”.
2. I’m a little hard-wired. The menu was done first, so the ingredients must conform to the menu. To adapt the menu, since it was done first, would be, well, wrong.
3. ” Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by”

— End of the Innocence, by Don Henley

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Just Me, Just Running

I love to run. 9 miles this morning on one of my favorite routes down Chapine Road.

I’m training for a marathon this fall. I don’t know that I’ll get there, that these old feet, knees, and hips will stand up to the pounding.

But I just love to run. To go out this morning and spend an hour and 45 minutes running was pure pleasure. Not that it didn’t hurt. My feet and back were aching during the run, and my quads are going to tell me about it tomorrow.

While running I lose myself in my thoughts, just drift along ruminating on old memories, or thinking about what might happen next, or just enjoying the moment, feeling my breath cycling oxygen in and co2 out, my heart beating strong, all fueling my legs to keep moving on.

Running a marathon will be nice, but just running makes me happy.

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Floored

The rain continues to fall, almost 6 inches in the last 10 days, so being it’s too wet to plow, and I can’t dance, I headed out to Washington DC this weekend to help eldest son Josh refinish the floors in his new condo. Josh isn’t moving in until in May, so it was the perfect time to get it done.

I drove out on Friday and wanted to start at 6am on Saturday when Home Depot opened and we could get the sanders. But I hadn’t considered practicalities of city life and neighbors both adjoining and underneath. So we started at 9am.

Here’s the kitchen after the first pass sanding. You can see how aged the old finish was. Josh thought it was probably the original finish, 24 years old.

Kitchen - First Pass
Kitchen – First Pass

That’s the edger we rented from Home Depot in the middle of the floor.

Josh is on the drum sander making the first pass in the living room with the 24 grit sanding drum.

Josh Sanding
Josh Sanding

You’ll notice the electric cord draped over his shoulder. By this point we’d managed to sand both of the sander electrical cords and patched them with tape.

This is the bedroom after the 1st pass sanding.

Bedroom Floor
Bedroom Floor

Just gorgeous! The old finish was worn and scratched and stained, but the wood underneath is beautiful.

Looking down the steps after the first sanding pass.

Steps
Steps

We sanded them with the edger. It doesn’t look like there’s much it missed, but there’s hours and hours of hand sanding left there.

Hand Sanding
Hand Sanding

Josh is working on the spots the edger wouldn’t reach with my pad and mouse sander. A few minutes of hand sanding gave you a deep appreciation of the contractor quality sanders we’d rented from Home Depot.

Here’s the living room floor after the final sanding. We did 3 sanding passes with finer grit drums on each pass.

Living Room
Living Room

There’s still lots of dust to clean up. We vacuumed it, wiped it all down with rags soaked in paint thinner, wiped it with a swiffer and then a tac rag. And then did it all again.

The jugs of finish all contained dire warnings about planning your application so you have an exit. We took heed.

Exit
Exit

Out the Door
Out the Door

Josh is holding the door open with his foot so I can do the last little bit of the first coat.

After the first coat of a water-based polyurethane it’s starting to look good.

First Coat
First Coat

With the second coat we’re really starting to get some depth and shine.

Second Coat
Second Coat

Second Coat
Second Coat

If you’re from around here[1] you’ll recognize I have a Leatherman in that holder on my belt. I quickly realized that, unlike around here, a Leatherman is not a common fashion accessory in Washington DC.

The last coat is going on here. I managed to step in the part Josh had brushed in along the edges, so I took my shoes off and finished the rest barefoot. You can see that 3rd coat is really getting a rich, deep gloss.

Almost Done
Almost Done

Home Depot[2], we couldn’t have done it without you!

Our Favorite Store
Our Favorite Store


1. Hillbilly Heaven.

2. Zumbrun.net as always is totally commercial-free. We received no consideration from Home Depot for this post.

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